State investigators say a Twin Cities health care provider met police at the door and denied stealing from a client a potent painkilling patch that the officer could see on the suspect’s body.

In the second case in recent weeks that the Health Department has ruled on involving theft of Fentanyl pain patches by care providers, the agency said last week that the staff member at Birchwood Arbors assisted-living center in Forest Lake not only stole the patch but likely was responsible for medication that was missing from two other clients as well.

In late November, the Health Department revealed that a nursing home nurse in northwestern Minnesota routinely peeled powerful pain patches off the backs of residents with severe cognitive disabilities, then affixed the patches to his tongue before sticking them back on the clients.

Investigators said the licensed practical nurse at Villa St. Vincent in Crookston stole painkillers from 10 residents for at least a year until being caught in July, leading to police involvement and the employee’s immediate firing.

According to the Health department findings in the latest thefts:

Birchwood Arbors staff notified police that medication was missing from two clients and then noticed a fentanyl patch was missing from a third client.

The facility’s investigation identified the staffer responsible, prompting police to go to the suspect’s home.

The officer saw a fentanyl patch on the staff member’s upper left arm. At first, the suspect denied any wrongdoing but relented once the officer made it clear the patch was for fentanyl medication.

The suspect, whose identity was not disclosed by the Health Department, was arrested on suspicion of drug possession. The agency did not reveal when the thefts occurred but noted that it tried without success twice to interview the care provider in September.

Fentanyl is a potent narcotic analgesic used to supplement general anesthesia or to treat long-term or chronic pain requiring continuous relief. The opium-based medication is seldom used outside of hospitals because it is powerful and fast-acting. It’s considered 80 times stronger than morphine and highly addictive.

When abused, fentanyl is known to be fatal. In January, Paul D. Mrosla, 25, of Carlton, Minn., overdosed on a fentanyl patch he bought illegally from an acquaintance. Also, since 2007, two bodybuilders — one in Minnesota and another in South Dakota — died of fentanyl overdoses by using patches they had acquired through third parties.